Commercial Trash Compactor: Shattered Self

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 10.27.58 PM

Please welcome first-time contributor John E. Panic, a man who was born in Houston, Texas, in 1954. John experienced his first psychotic episode on his last day of elementary school. He went undiagnosed until 1973 when recreational drug use as a sophomore in college caused a mental breakdown. His first diagnosis was from a hallucinatory drug flashback. He was misdiagnosed as having hypoglycemia the same year. John had a variety of other diagnoses over the years, but finally received an accurate diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, in the late 1990’s. He was then classified as disabled in 1998. John, and his ex-wife, currently live with John’s 87-year-old parents and help care for them.

About this photo: This image has multiple meanings for me. One thing that sets me apart from people who only have bipolar disorder is what I call a shattered self. This shattering of the self is independent of my moods. My thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations seem to be disconnected or unrelated. I am overwhelmed by incoming sensory experience. I have to retreat into a dark space, close my eyes, use ear plugs to cut down the noise. Then I experience something like a panic attack and sleep paralysis. Manic and depressive psychoses cause a different kind of self fragmentation. In manic psychosis, a powerful energy fills me and my thoughts move so quickly I can’t understand a single word I think. Euphoria turns to a frightening hilarity or uncontrollable irritability and eventually ends up in terror and horror. During depressive psychosis it is a struggle to think, talk, act, or move and I feel down, guilty, ashamed, hopeless, and worthless. The compactor is the disorder and the overflowing trash represents the shattered/fragmented self.

Find more from John on Flickr


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14 thoughts on “Commercial Trash Compactor: Shattered Self

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  1. The photo, a story in and of itself is a great capture. Your words are difficult to read. You have described your experience in details The description of what you experience is


    1. I have gone to various self help groups and I have never met or heard of anyone who has the same symptoms as me. Learning that I am not alone is a bit of a shock. I am still processing the realization I am not alone. I am at a loss for words. Thank you for sharing.


    1. When I am at my best, I am better than I have ever been. When I am not doing well, it’s much less intense than it used to be. I still have functional and non-functional periods every day. For me, the trick is to accept the non-functional periods until they pass.


  2. This is a very intense post, as was said above, it’s difficult to read – but please never let that stop you. I hope that in making powerful images and connecting them to your story, some amount of relief comes your way. You will provide a lifeline to others who can’t articulate their feelings as well as you can and who feel alone. Caring for older parents is enough in itself without the added stress that a complicated illness adds. Take care, and I hope you continue to make photographs and write!


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